"This is the biggest free speech battle of our lifetimes," says Marcia Hoffman, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "This is the moment when we will see whether publishers can continue to freely distribute truthful political information online."
While some might find the statement of this EFF attorney to be a bit of hyperbole, there is an undeniable underlying idea being tested here: the scope of information distribution in the digital age. It is important because what happens now has implications for the dissemination of controversial information in the future. While we in the United States enjoy excellent free speech rights, the rules of expression can changes dramatically outside of the country. This is certainly not a new notion or concept; however, within the international framework of the internet, it creates its own new unique dynamic.
I’ve had people asking me to do the Secret Santa thing again after last year. I’ll be perfectly honest about last year’s results; I got some great stories from people who got gifts that they absolutely loved and I got a few stories about people who got stiffed on a gift. (Here’s the link to last year’s event and some reactions.) Overall, I’d say that the experience was positive for people. For myself personally, there was a lot of work involved on the back end; and while I don’t mind taking on that workload, I simply don’t have the bandwidth at this time to juggle that. So, there are a few changes this year.
First, I’m going to use Drawnames.com to handle the organizing and assigning people to be Secret Santas. The site has gotten some favorable reviews (including from Lifehacker) so I thought it was a good choice. Plus, it requires the minimum amount of information without all the awful ads of other sites.
I generally try to avoid posts comprised of a list but every now and again I get inspiration to put one together. I give credit to Jill Hurst-Wahl for providing a catalyst with her blog post “What I want LIS students to know”. In doing my own reflection of the last couple of years, I’d like to offer my own advice on this avenue.
In the November 1st issue of Library Journal, there is an LJ Backtalk article entitled “The Internet is Not All or Nothing”. It is written by Dean Marney, the Director of the North Central Regional Library in Wenatchee, Washington. This is probably not going to ignite any immediate recognition for some readers but this is the library at the heart of Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library Districtlawsuit. (If you are familiar with the lawsuit, you can skip on down to the break below and avoid all this legal background stuff.) It was the first case in the post-CIPA United State et al. v. American Library Association ruling which held that Children’s Internet Protection Act was not unconstitutional.
I’ve had this idea for well over a year, but when I read the desk setup post over at In the Library with the Lead Pipe, I knew I had to just do it. Mostly inspired by the long running “The View from Your Window” series (now in book form) at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish and my own curiosity about the different types and styles of reference desk*, I started a Tumblr blog called “A View from Your Desk”.
There are a couple of purposes to this blog. First, people can submit their own photographs for inclusion to the blog. Tumblr makes it very easy to do so. Second, I’m hoping it will give people a glance into libraries and offices from all over the country, if not the world. Not only do librarians get to check out other libraries, but it can show everyone what it looks like to be in our seats. Third, I think it’s a fun idea. And I’m not one to turn down a fun idea, especially one that doesn’t require much upkeep.
So, take a picture, submit it to the blog, and show the world how the library world looks to you! Thanks!
Over dinner, Wes Jackson, the president of the Land Institute, which promotes environmentally sustainable agriculture, complained to Ms. Jackson, his daughter-in-law, that even though many local farmers would suffer from climate change, few believed that it was happening or were willing to take steps to avoid it.
Why did the conversation have to be about climate change? Ms. Jackson countered. If the goal was to persuade people to reduce their use of fossil fuels, why not identify issues that motivated them instead of getting stuck on something that did not?
There are some very familiar refrains that library advocacy invokes in a public awareness campaign in the last year: books and reading, computer access, education programming, assistance for the unemployed and underemployed, and lending aid in the time of the recession. But, as I would commonly see in comments on library funding news stories, what librarians find as a compelling reason does not resonate with everyone.
At the end of last week, Roy Tennant posted on his Library Journal blog an entry about “How to Become (and Stay) Famous”. He’s got some great advice for those getting notice (or looking to get notice) within the field and what it entails. He makes reference to an older post “How to Be ‘Famous’” by Karen Schneider that works as a good companion piece. The focus of her piece revolves around what this type of ‘fame’ means for the individual. In reading both articles together, it gives a good balance to the library ‘fame game’ in offering equal parts of how to get there, how to stay there, and what to expect when you’re there.
In leafing through the issue of Library Journal from earlier this month, the latest John Berry article made me sit up in my seat. Entitled “Half Way to ALA”, he discusses the true cost of conference attendance in terms of dollars and (more importantly, in my estimation) professional advancement.
I found this article in my Google Reader this morning and, I will admit, it has been awhile since I have been so excited and flabbergasted at the same time. I was excited about the possibilities and flabbergasted at the implementation. Take a moment to click on the link and go read it so that you too can join me in such a mixture of emotions. Or, for those who want to get to the meat of the situation, carry on.
Over my vacation week, I caught this post "The Librarian IS the Rockstar” over on David Lee King’s blog. It’s a great post about the library looking to showcase the talents of its employees, the people who work their magic and make the programs and services possible for their community. Libraries have talented staff members who (too often) remain in the shadows, unnoticed by the public and unacknowledged by the library. So why not elevate them to where people can see and appreciate the skills, knowledge, and talent they bring to the library?
The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.
This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.
Submitted by AndyW on September 24, 2010 - 12:52am
In reading about the Netflix/library hubbub, the issue in my mind is not how Netflix was used. I believe that the actions of these libraries and librarians are a symptom of a larger issue for the profession: the coping (or non-coping) with the expansion of licensed content as part of the collection.
This run-in with Netflix is just the tip of the iceberg that is slowly bearing down on the libraryland ship. We are moving from a collection model where we would purchase and lend materials to where we act as an access point for leased or licensed content. The relatively safe model protected under the first sale doctrine is being eroded and replaced with agreements where ownership rights stay with with the provider. In forgoing ownership, libraries must abide by a series of contractual rules and terms that have been created by an outside entity. As the number of vendors offering these kinds of business increases, librarians are obliged to enforce a variety of contractual clauses, terms, and conditions.
Libraries are surrendering content ownership at an alarming rate in exchange for convenience. In doing so, the library moves toward a future where the collection is no longer owned and maintained but leased and licensed by entities that operate in the best interest of their shareholders, not the patron community. It’s a future in which final determination of access is taken out of the hands of librarians and placed into that of outside third parties.
Submitted by AndyW on September 20, 2010 - 11:33pm
From my readings and observations, there is a visible disconnect between library types when it comes to advocating and action. When the state budget battle was being fought in New Jersey this past year, this lack of affiliation was readily apparent.
[In previous editions of the Library Reloaded series, there has been discussion about what materials make up a collection, different ways to approach fines, and alternate forms of library cards. Unlike those previous posts, in writing and thinking about the catalog, I have found that my thoughts have lingered on what the catalog of the future should do and look like rather than offer alternatives to the catalog. So, this post will have more of a sandbox feel to it in listing what I’d like in the next generation of library automation. Also, since I’m vastly unfamiliar with cataloging, I am hoping that any cataloger reading this will write their own blog post to fill in that aspect so that I can link to it. –A ]
There’s a quote that is attributed to astronaut John Glenn, remarking on his space flight:
“As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind: Every part of this capsule was supplied by the lowest bidder."
In my own experience (and somewhat amplified by the Master’s Degree posts (first, second), there is a mystique that is lent to the reference desk like no other place in the library (save for closed stacks, the final mystery of the library world). It is the sacred space for the librarian immortals and perhaps the paraprofessional demigods who prove themselves worthy of its station. From behind this lauded furniture, answers are dispensed to all who seek wisdom within the walls of the library. It is the desk of last resort for those who continue to question, the deliverer of information redemption, and start of many journeys into discovery. To hear some of my peers talk about the reference desk, you would think that the desk was made of wood cut down by God, carved by Jesus, and blessed by his library apostles, Dewey and Ranganathan.
“I didn’t know you needed a master’s degree to be a librarian.”
If you haven’t experienced this statement firsthand, you’ve certainly read about it. It is the notion that what we are doing as a career, a calling, and an occupation requires an advanced degree of study. It’s an image issue that pops up for the public librarian on a fairly regular basis. And, like it or not, it is here to stick with public librarians for a long time.
Once upon a time, there was no degree requirement to become a librarian. Anyone with a degree could be a librarian; it was simply a matter of learning the collection, the classification system, and the established policies and procedures of the library. With the advent of the MLS and MLIS programs, this has created a new layer of requirements for budding librarians but has not been accompanied by a shift in duties and workload. On any given day, I can be standing at the circulation desk side-by-side with a support staff member doing the same thing that they are doing. So long as this arrangement exists, the perception that librarianship does not require an advanced degree will continue to taint the image of the profession.
If you haven’t seen this excerpt from recently assembled autobiography of Mark Twain, I implore you to read it now. It’s worth the click.
The restriction or removal of material does in fact present a slippery slope of what is “moral” (to use the example from the Twain anecdote) and that which is not. Moral relativism is the actor in that story in which the portrayal of the virtue of truth (and the vice of dishonesty) are unequally applied as criteria to the inclusion of materials in that library of the last century. Once you banish a book on the grounds that it features a liar, you need to banish all of the books that feature the same.
But I’m going to guess that this is nothing new, nothing surprising to the readers who find their way here. The ideals of librarianship, portrayed throughout the graduate school experience as well as to society at large, is that the library contains materials for all interests, for all ages, and for all curiosities. The reality is that we (the royal ‘we’ as a profession) are biased. We do it everyday with the resources we recommend, the search engines we use, the databases we go to, the books that we order, and the websites we read. These biases serve a very practical purpose: they prevent us from becoming frozen into inaction from attempting to be as neutral and unbiased as possible.